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Clutch Maintenance: How to Avoid Costly Repairs.

Over time, almost all of your car’s internal components will need to be replaced or repaired. However, by treating your car with care and carrying out maintenance on time, you can extend the life of your car’s engine, transmission and more.

In this post, we’ll look at one of the most troublesome components in many cars – the clutch. The way you drive and the amount of maintenance you perform have a significant effect on the performance and lifespan of your car’s clutch.

The more gently you apply your car’s clutch, the longer it will last for and the less likely it is to start slipping.

What does the clutch do in a car?

Your car’s clutch essentially allows you to speed up or slow down by disconnecting the engine from the wheels without switching it off. Every car with a manual transmission has a clutch, as well as some vehicles with an automatic or tiptronic transmission. Most automatic vehicles use a torque converter instead of a clutch, which requires a different level of maintenance.

Your car’s engine is constantly rotating whenever it’s turned on, even if your car is at a standstill. In order for your car’s engine to operate without its wheels turning, the clutch controls friction between the engine and the transmission.

The clutch contains a large friction disc that comes into contact with the engine’s flywheel. When you don’t press down on the clutch pedal, movement travels from the flywheel to the friction disc of the clutch, then onwards to the transmission.

Press down on the clutch pedal and the friction disc of the clutch is pulled away from the flywheel, allowing the car’s engine to keep rotating without transferring power to the transmission and onwards to the wheels.

Since the clutch plays such an important role in your car’s operation, it’s important to treat it carefully. Using your clutch gently can extend its use by as much as 20,000 miles, while treating it recklessly can cut its effective use in half.

The clutch’s friction disc

The clutch contains several components that are essential for normal operation of your car. However, the most common source of clutch problems is the friction disc, which connects with the flywheel and can wear out over time.

The purpose of the friction disc is simple – to transfer power from the engine to the gearbox. Think of it as a giant brake pad that connects with your engine to provide the friction required to transfer energy from the flywheel to the transmission.

When the clutch pedal is released, the friction disc presses up against the flywheel, causing the clutch and the engine to rotate at equal speed. When the clutch pedal is pressed down, the clutch is pulled back and friction is released.

The friction disc constantly comes in and out of contact with the flywheel, which can eventually lead to wear. When the friction disc of a clutch is worn down, it can cause the clutch to “slip” and fail to rotate at the same speed as the flywheel.

Since the clutch doesn’t rotate at the same speed as the engine – or takes a while to reach the same speed as the engine – this drastically reduces the car’s performance, and sometimes prevents it from even being able to drive on an incline.

Clutch slippage is a compounding problem. Since slipping increases the amount of friction between the clutch and the flywheel, the more you let your clutch slip, the worse the problem will become until the clutch is replaced.

What are the signs of clutch failure?

Although it is possible to drive with a slipping clutch, it’s very dangerous to do so. Here are some signs that your clutch is failing:

  • Your clutch feels spongy, sticks or vibrates when you press it
  • You hear a squeaking or a grumbling noise when you press down on the pedal
  • You can rev the engine, but acceleration is poor
  • You have difficulty changing gears
  • You experience a ‘slipping’ clutch, which causes a momentary loss of acceleration

If you experience any of the above issues, your clutch definitely needs some attention.

Replacing a slipping clutch

Over time, even the most carefully applied clutch will become worn down, requiring replacement. Most modern cars have durable clutches that will last for 75,000 miles or more when used and maintained normally, making replacement rare but vital. Replacing a clutch is pretty much a routine job (but definitely not a job for a DIY’er) and shouldn’t take a trained and trusted mechanic too long to fix.

How much does a clutch cost?

Due to the complex nature of the repair the average cost of replacing a clutch is between £500-600, with prices ranging from £450 to £1,000. The average price for Audi clutch is £792, BMW’s start from £546 and Mercedes costing upwards of £928 for newer models.[1]

As you can see, this isn’t a job any one can do! We’d always recommend a professional do this for you!

If you use your vehicle to tow a heavy load such as a boat or caravan, there’s a good chance you’ll wear out its clutch earlier due to the increased amount of weight that’s placed on the friction disc.

Over time, even the most carefully applied clutch will become worn down, requiring replacement. Most modern cars have durable clutches that will last for 75,000 miles or more when used and maintained normally, making replacement rare but vital.

How to reduce clutch wear

Your clutch only wears when it’s being engaged and disengaged. When it’s spinning at the same speed as the flywheel, wear is minimal. Likewise, when the clutch is fully disengaged, its friction disc doesn’t come in to contact with the flywheel at all.

This means that almost all of the wear your clutch will experience happens while it’s engaging or disengaging with the engine. When you apply the clutch pedal suddenly, it creates extra wear on the friction disc of the clutch, making it more likely to slip.

Engage and disengage the clutch pedal gently, however, and the clutch will slide into place up against the flywheel without any extra wear. Change gears carefully so that your clutch isn’t suddenly pressed against or pulled away from the flywheel.

It’s especially important to change into first gear carefully, since almost all serious clutch wear occurs in first gear. Keep your car’s engine spinning as slow as you can without it stalling, then gently take pressure off the clutch pedal to start moving.

Clutch Maintenance: How to Avoid Costly Repairs
Source / CC 2.0

Excess weight, usually from a trailer, can also wear down your clutch over time. The clutch can also wear faster than normal if you frequently drive up and down hills or come to a standstill on a slope, forcing you to rev heavily in order to accelerate.

Like most other vehicle components, the key to extending your clutch’s lifespan and reducing the cost of repairs is treating it gently. Engage and disengage the clutch as smoothly as you can and you could double the amount of mileage you get from it.

For extra peace of mind make sure to consider a used car warranty. Warrantywise cover the clutch on all levels of cover (parts listed differ depending on level), as well as providing the most comprehensive extended vehicle warranty on the market. Simply enter your registration in the box above a for a free, no obligation quotation.

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